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Uganda – Shots in the Night

The children and I were laying on the floor as we listened to gun shots outside….

We live about a half mile away from the main highway that connects Uganda with South Sudan and Kenya. Our “town” of Busiu is just a clot of small shops in the main artery used by heavy trucks and fuel containers to bring their wares to market. The road is only a narrow two lane but that doesn’t seem to deter the trucks from travelling at high speeds. Accidents are common and grisly.

Last evening as the sun was setting, we heard gunshots coming from the shops. At first we didn’t pay any attention. Then we heard a great roar of voices and many more shots being fired. Then the blunt “puff” sound of tear gas being expelled. The shouting increased. People began running away from the shops towards our area. Over 15 school children complete with uniforms and book bags ran into our brother’s house to hide.  The news coming from them was that a fuel tanker had run over two pedestrians. An impromptu crowd surged forward, wanting to lynch the driver.

Then we saw a bicycle careening down the path, the rider was screaming for people at the borehole to hide. Andy was in the kitchen cooking, Kakai was getting clothes off the line and Kana was in the bathroom bathing. We had a visitor in the yard who was putting dried corn into a sack. Joshua was getting the goats. I yelled for all of them to come into the house. Thank God they immediately responded. I reasoned that the house was constructed of solid bricks and there were not windows in the hallway. I shut off the stove and bolted the metal security door. I ran to the hallway shutting off lights as I went. Peeking out, to make sure everyone was in, I saw our visitor back-lit in front of the living room window. He was trying to close and latch it.  We yelled at him, for God’s sake, to get away from the windows.

We lay crowded, in the dark unable to see but with our ears wide open. First, we heard a heavy four wheel drive coming. Then we heard the gunshots. They were quite close although not right outside. Perhaps  two hundred yards from the house. Joshua managed to crawl over and close my bedroom door (its window faces the path). I remembered that Shem was on his way home and would pass by the shops. I called him on his cell phone. He knew what was happening and was a safe distance away. Then I heard Kana; she was still in the bathroom! I snaked over to the laundry basket and got her a towel and some clean clothes. Axolpheli, who was with us, lay on his stomach with his hands over his ears.   Everyone was very quiet, barely hazarding to breathe.

After 15 protracted minutes, we all raised our heads and listened. It seemed to be quiet outside. No vehicle, no more gunshots. I whispered to Joshua and he agreed to go outside and have a look. He soon called out to us that all was safe. We all sat up and blinked at each other, then took a collective breath. Cautiously we ventured out.

By night fall, we were all eating supper outside in the cool breeze, laughing and all talking at once. We had finished evening prayers and were awaiting Shem’s arrival. When he finally came, long after the children went to bed, we heard the whole story. Shem had seen the body, head empty of brains, still lying on the road and heard the talk from the town.

A fuel tanker had hit two people who were on a motorcycle taxi. When the driver saw what had happened, he tried plow through. But the motorcycle got caught under the vehicle and he had to stop. He could see the crowd beginning to boil and tried to make a run for it. He scuttled to a nearby brick house that happened to be the home of a government official. The local police surrounded the house to protect the driver but realized they could not fend off the mob. They called for reinforcements from Mbale. Those police came in serious force. They were the ones who fired the shots and also let loose the tear gas. People took off but the Mbale police were able to follow the ring leaders, who were captured near our house.

We thank God that we are all safe. Although I don’t think we were in any direct danger, we could have been caught up in events beyond our control. The Lord was gracious to us. The children do not seem to be traumatized by it. In fact, they were anxious to go to school today and hear firsthand accounts from their friends who live in the shops. We did realize after, when Axopheli came running up to me and held my legs, that we had neglected to explain the whole thing to him in Lumasaaba. We had been speaking English the whole time. But we soon set him to rights and he is okay.

Thank you all for your prayers for our family. Please keep it up.

Catherine

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